SIX weeks of mayhem and speculation that Derek McInnes would jump ship and join Rangers is over as he has, at last, confirmed that he is staying at Aberdeen, despite a formal approach from his boyhood team.
Aberdeen confirmed in a statement, including quotes from the manager himself, that McInnes and his assistant Tony Docherty would remain in the Pittodrie dugout just days after rejecting an approach from Rangers looking for permission to talk to him.
It’s the end of a lengthy media circus, that has seen countless ex-Rangers players wheeled out and journalists, apparently being tipped off by the Ibrox club, that McInnes would join the club he played for in the late 90’s, and leaving the Dons in the lurch.
Let’s be honest, nobody has come out of this well – both clubs, the media and sections of both fans, including Dons supporters this week declaring McInnes a traitor as rumours spread like wildfire that a deal taking him to Ibrox was done.
Derek McInnes himself will also have to take a look back over the past six weeks with regret that he didn’t do enough to kill off speculation that he’d leave. Although he frequently stated that he enjoyed his job at Aberdeen and his relationship with Stewart Milne, he didn’t formally state that he would knock back an approach from Rangers should it come his way. Maybe he wanted to keep that option open given that it’s his boyhood team but it was a naïve move when you factor in the rivalry between the two sides. In his defence, if he had categorically stated over the last six weeks that he wasn’t interested in the Rangers job then ended up taking it, he would’ve needed protection the next time he came up to the Granite City such is the hatred between the two sides and what would’ve come his way.
Over the next few days, the media will speculate on why Derek McInnes opted to stay at Aberdeen after a couple of days without taking training at the club. Some will point to Rangers financial position, others will point to the fact that Rangers took so long to make their move, by which time it was clear he was frustrated at constantly trying to fend off speculation, and others will say he has more to achieve at Pittodrie before he eventually moves on.
What is clear is that McInnes now needs to galvanise his squad and get the club out of the current run they are in!
Since the night before Pedro Caixinha was ousted after six months at Ibrox, The Dons have won just two of their last seven matches, losing four times with three of them coming at home. More alarmingly, the team lost back-to-back matches against their bitter rivals with two appalling performances, particularly at Ibrox where an over-defensive approach against a side who’d lost their previous two matches was baffling. Credit to Rangers, they got their tactics spot on, but for Aberdeen it was a spurned opportunity to open up a gap as big as 12 points on Rangers, instead they fell behind them on goal difference.
It’s too easy an excuse to blame Aberdeen’s run of form on the speculation, at the end of the day the players are paid to do a job on the park. However, there’s no question that the uncertainty that’s dragged on for far too long has been a factor in their slump, albeit a minor one. Now that the speculation has been put to bed, the players can now focus fully on putting on better performances to deliver better results.
The first thing McInnes needs to do is get a settled lineup together. There have been far too many changes to the Aberdeen starting eleven all season and that’s affected the performances of several players. None of the summer signings have excelled this season, including Stevie May who was hailed as a star signing by many. His return of four goals is poor though he’s not been helped by the fact the creative element of the team has been chopped and changed on a regular basis. None of the clubs main three wingers – Gary MacKay-Steven, Greg Stewart and Scott Wright – have had a prolonged run in the side and that’s something that needs to be addressed. When you consider that much of Aberdeen’s good work over the previous four seasons was based on the wide play of Johnny Hayes and Niall McGinn, it’s an area of concern for McInnes that he doesn’t know the right blend to create chances for May and others.
Defensively, the Dons have been suspect, with only Scott McKenna, a youth product, looking consistent out of the back line. They looked as though they’d found a formula with McKenna partnering Kari Arnason at the back and Anthony O’Connor protecting them in midfield, but that’s been chopped and changed recently that hasn’t helped their respective performances.
This time last season, McInnes made a decision at Motherwell two days before Christmas what his best side was and the club went on a great run of form, leading to them comfortably claiming second and reaching their second Cup Final, pushing Celtic hard before going down to a last minute Tom Rogic goal. A similar statement and long run would go some way to repairing the damage between McInnes and certain sections of the Dons support riled, understandably, by recent events.
The next match is vital to help Derek McInnes and Aberdeen back on track. Dundee will not be an easy fixture with the home side in the back of consecutive victories over Rangers and Ross County, and the preparations have been far from ideal with the manager not being there to oversee it for two days. The fact speculation has now been put firmly to bed may act as a shot in the arm for the players, backed by an away following no doubt heartened by the fact their manager turned down their rivals, and help the team to a vital three points.
Speaking of the Red Army, it’s also time for us all to move on and put this long saga behind us. We’ve all had our minds go full circle on the speculation as to whether or not McInnes would go to Rangers. I’ve been caught up in it to, thinking he’d be away by the international break, to thinking there was no way he’d go the longer it went on, especially when Stewart Milne said he had no intentions of going. The last few days since Rangers won at Pittodrie and I thought it was only a matter of time before he was leaving and it was a major shock to come home from work and find out that McInnes was staying at Pittodrie.
Let’s be honest, if it was any other club than Rangers, there would not have been anywhere near the same level of animosity from Dons fans regarding the speculation, including towards McInnes himself. It is accepted that he will be off one day for a different challenge, most likely in England where he’s already turned down the basket case of Sunderland despite an offer to treble his salary. But losing him to Rangers would’ve churned the fans stomachs so it’s understandable that they are rubbing it into the media, who’ve been prying for this story to happen taking into account their biased coverage of the story, and some Rangers fans more than being delighted that McInnes is staying.
Whatever the reasons behind his decision, Derek McInnes has committed his future, again, to Aberdeen and now has the chance to refocus after a difficult six weeks that have clearly got to him. His decision could be the springboard that relaunches Aberdeen’s season. In turning down their rivals and his boyhood team, their isn’t a much stronger statement to highlight his commitment to the club.
Now it’s time for him to deliver, learn from his tactical blunders in recent games and for proper backing from the fans to get our season back in track!